Introduction: DIY High End Planted Tank #Balleronabudget

This instructable is to show you how I built my beautiful "High Tech" Planted tank for a very low cost.

I hope you all enjoy !

P.S. This is my first published instructable I have been a lurker on instructables from the beginning but now i want to get involved and share my brain and hobbies with everyone (Many Many more instructables to come ;)

Step 1: Picking Your Aquarium

The key here is to find a great deal, try to find one with a stand surprisingly the stands are worth just as much as the aquarium except people DO NOT like selling them cheap or by themselves for that matter, your best bet is to find one on craigslist (Stay safe and smart) or at fleamarkets or even garage sales.

Usually the price for used aquariums are about 1$ per gallon, but they also tend come with stands filters or other goodies that will come in handy most of the time it is junk and will need to be replaced with new equipment but i like to consider them as freebies anyway. If you get a really old filter that doesnt work you should keep it anyway many LFS (Local Fish Stores) will sometimes have big sales where a filter company rep will set up a "trade in your old filters for free" booth these are awesome because you get brand new filters for free !

The second option would be to catch a Petco 1$ Per gal sale that is the best sale you can possibly get for a brand new aquarium Ideally for a planted aquarium the more shallow the tank the better you want more surface area in the tank rather than height, and the reason for that is lighting but we will get into that a bit later.

Step 2: Painting the Tank

this is an additional step i just love painting the back of my planted tanks. It makes the plant colors pop out and it looks much more professional than taping plastic backgrounds to the back .

I used the same homedepot primer for the back of this tank and it came out beautifully make sure you do a few coats and clean the glass very well with rubbing alcohol and a lint free cloth before painting. You can also use very fine grit steel wool to roughen up the glass that you are going to be painting, it is unnessicary but i find that it helps keep the paint from flaking down the road.

Step 3: Painting the Stand

Normally I would sand and stain the wood then seal it all with laquer, however this stand was made out of different materials, and only the front was real wood, the back top and bottom were made out of melamine. For the sake of ease I just took a spray paint can to the whole thing and made sure I covered the entire outside the inside doesnt matter all that much but it looks better, I ended up painting the inside too.

Step 4: Build the Light Stand

I decided to build a light stand for my light fixture since the tank that i used was so short, I figured it would open up the tank a little more and allow you to see the plants from above. It also lets the plants grow out of the tank depending on what kind you use or lillies and other floating plants if you decide to do that later.

I recommend buying two pieces of 3/4"conduit tubing they come in 10' lengths and are only about 4$ each. have them cut at 5' homedepot can help you with that and they can bend them for you as well. You want the ends bent at 90 degrees at 4" in from the end

I marked each pole at 5" from the end and bent from that mark make sure to bend slowly and consistently otherwise you will "pop" the bend. It took a few tries but we finally got our pieces. I HIGHLY recommend bending your 10' pipes before you cut them at 5' that way if you mess up you can cut the end off without messing up your whole 5' measurement, you get a few extra tries that way.

once you have 2 good pieces bent you can drill and sand them, you can leave them as is but I chose to paint mine black.

Step 5: Substrate

Substrate is very important in planted tanks, you want to make sure that what ever you use is pretty fine grit or sand, big pebbles do not hold plants in very well and do not allow the roots to be very stable. In all of my planted tanks I use either "eco complete" by CaribSea or plain "play sand" from homedepot. the drawback from using play sand is that you really need to wash it in a bucket before using it, this cleans out the silt which will make your tank cloudy for weeks if it is left in the sand.

Make sure that you have 2-4" of substrate, the thicker you go the better and bigger your plants will get, plus it makes it significantly easier to plant

These are a few substrates that I recommend local fish stores will usually carry these products, shipping would be insane on a bag of gravel

A great resource for soil substrates

Step 6: Lighting Guide

Lighting is very simple for a High tech planted tank, you want a lot but not too much, you basically want between two and three watts par Gallon of CORRECT lighting, this is very important if you want to grow plants

<1 Watt per Gallon Considered "Low Light"

1-2 Watt per Gallon Considered "High Light"

2.5> Watt per Gallon Considered "Very High Light"

In a 1 wpg (watt per gallon) or less tank the plants that you would look for would be "hardy low light plants"

Types of lighting

Incandescent (O.K.)

Florescent (O.K.)

Compact florescent ( recommended)

Power compact (a little better than compact florescent but more expensive to run)

Metal halide (uses way too much energy)

L.E.D. (recommend)

Step 7: Hard Scaping

This is one of the easiest steps "hard" scaping is basically setting up and placing wood and rocks in a apealing way.

I recommend getting yourself some African mopani wood or Malaysian driftwood since they are heavy and sink immediately, these heavy types of wood are much easier to use. If you pick out some sandblasted grapevine or manzanita you will need to soak them a few days or even weeks to get them waterlogged enough to sink.

Step 8: Plants and Aquascaping

This is an amazing guide to aquascaping you should read this before continuing, this guide will give you a basic knowlege with how you should lay out your plants

Bunch Plants


Floating Plants

Foreground plants

Grass Leaved Plants


Other Rooted Plants

Sword Plants

A great place to buy plants

An amazing guide to easy to care for and common plants

Step 9: Cleaners

Cleaners are a huge part in planted tanks, i recomend amano shimp in any size planted tank they are kings of algea eating and if you have enough of them your tank will always be spotless, i also recommend rubber lip plecos and bristlenose plecos they stay very small and do not eat your plants but they are very hardy and do a great job with keeping algea down NEVER use common plecos in planted tanks they get huge and love eating plants and they poop a ton to top it off, if you choose to have tiny fish or no fish at all you can look into dwarf shimps they come in tons of colors and are pretty hardy depending on the species, the bright red ones i have pictured are called Taiwan Fire red shrimps Re

Step 10: Co2 Injection

I dont want to go into too much detail on DIY co2 but here is a great guide that I personally use. and the pictures are of the system that i used for this tank

Step 11: Fertilizers

Fertilizers are a key in keeping aquatic plants alive, especially if you used play sand since sand has barley if any minerals that plants need in it. You can go the simple route and just pick up some API leafzone Co2 booster and root tabs but personally i recommend picking up some osmocote + for about 10$ and some (00) double zero gelatin pill capsules loading them up and then you have probably a year or more worth of fertilizers for your aquarium. I use all of these products but I don't buy root tabs they are about 10$ a packet. when you make your own fertilizers you only spend bout 20$ for 1000 DIY root tabs.

Root tabs are simply pressed into the substrate and left to be dissolved and absorbed by the plants I use a ton of osmocote in my aquariums and it is a very mild fertilizer and seems to not change my water parameters at all.

Leafzone and Co2 booster are dosed once a week

Step 12: Maintenance

Maintenance is pretty simple just trim plants as needed keep up on your fertilizers and maintain just like other aquariums. in a high tech planted tank you want to replace at least 50% of the water in your tank once every week. I choose to do 2 25% water changes per week it seems to be much easier on the ecosystem.

This is an amazing guide for maintenance and it goes much further in depth with planted tanks in general

A few other guides

Step 13: Filtration

filtration is simple, the more the merrier. I prefer canister filters for planted tanks they are much more effective and they are concealed so all that you see is an intake hose and a out flow hose.

the other thing that I have pictured is a powerhead these pumps are great for circulating and aerating the water

Step 14: Final Notes

This instructable was meant to show you how to set up a basic high tech high light planted tank for a very low cost i have included many guides for further information. I will be going into much further detail in more instructables to come :)

I hope that you all enjoyed

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